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Are Dog Breed DNA Tests Accurate?

Are Dog DNA Tests Accurate?

If you own a mixed-breed dog, you really should try your best to learn about his genetic make-up. It isn’t simply about satisfying the curiosity. It can be critical knowledge in a number of ways; there’s a lot that both you and your pet can gain from it.


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When you find a dog that you like at a shelter or elsewhere, a dependable dog breed DNA genetic test of its breed can tell you about the kind of predispositions and behavioral qualities that you’re likely looking at. This information can help you make a choice that’s likely to work for both you and the animal. You can even use genetic tests to find out if a dog on your list is likely to be vulnerable to diseases that are expensive to treat.

Even more importantly, accurate breed-related information can help you find quality healthcare for your pet. Most vets fly blind when it comes to offering healthcare to mixed-breed animals: when they don’t have breed-related information, they have no way of determining what genetic health risks your pet faces, and what can be done to help. When you go in armed with accurate breed-related information, you give your pet a better chance at health and happiness.

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It all comes down to how accurate you test is likely to be

Commercial genetic tests for dogs have only been around since 2007. In the beginning, the genetic testing market for pets had multiple businesses competing to establish themselves. While the testing methods used by these companies were very dependable ones, they faced one important hurdle — each one of these businesses only had access to a very limited catalog of genetic markers for canine breeds.

With about 400 distinct breeds in existence, canines are the single most internally varied species on earth. In the beginning, though, genetic testing companies, only tended to have genetic markers for 30 or 40 different dog breeds. If you brought in a mixed-breed pet with DNA from breeds that were not on file at the company, you could come away with results that were practical useless.

Dog Breed Test Kits Have Changed

Over the years, though, the patent DNA testing market has consolidated itself. After a series of mergers and acquisitions, there is exactly one commercial genetic testing company in existence now — Wisdom Panel, which is a part of Mars Veterinary, a subsidiary of the Mars candy bar company. With each acquisition allowing the merging of genetic marker databases, Wisdom Panel, which is the last company standing, now covers about 200 different breeds, or about half the breed spectrum for the domestic dog. If your dog has genes from breeds that the Wisdom Panel database doesn’t cover, the results that you get from genetic testing could suffer.


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YES – Genetic dog breed testing is accurate

With half the breeds in existence covered, genetic testing today is very usable. For instance, if your dog is a Kerry Blue terrier in part, and if Wisdom Panel’s database only has DNA markers for the closely related Lakeland Terrier, they could still determine that your dog had something close to the Lakeland terrier’s genes. Since both breeds have similar medical needs, the information would be very useful. Narrowing down the breed make-up of you dog can help.

As a general rule, dogs that have greatly varied genetic breed makeup tend to be difficult to identify accurately with current genetic testing technology. If your dog, for instance, is a second- or third-generation mixed breed animal, it could very well be genetically related to 10 different breeds. Your results are likely to be of limited use if you wish to identify each one of them. You may only uncover the most dominant breeds that your dog is related to.

Apart from the difficulties involved in identifying every single breed in a very mixed pet’s genetic makeup, these tests tend to be extremely accurate. Only rarely do these tests turn out to incorrectly match DNA samples to specific dog breeds.

The accuracy of your results depends on the test model that you choose

While genetic tests that make use of genetic material collected at home can work reasonably well, it is possible to get very specific health-related information with a veterinarian-performed genetic blood test. Blood samples are sent to genetic testing companies such as Royal Canin or Banfield, where sophisticated analyses are able to do more than to simply uncover your dog’s genetic makeup. They are able to offer you specific information on your dog’ health risks by looking for specific genetic mutations, and give you specific dietary and nutritional advice. With a regular home test kit, you would need to depend on your veterinarian to interpret your test results for you.

Your results can vary

It’s important to understand what exactly genetic testing can do — it is only capable of determining what breeds make up your dog — it cannot help you determine lineage. For instance, if your dog shows up as 30% Beagle, it doesn’t necessarily mean that one of its grandparents was that breed; genetic qualities can be dominant or recessive in unpredictable ways.

Many dog owners trying genetic tests for their dogs order multiple tests to see if they get the same results each time. Multiple tests do return different results each time. Test accuracy improves each passing year. At this point, it’s usually a good idea to get multiple tests to make sure that you get as close to the truth as possible.

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Are Dog Breed DNA Tests Accurate?
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Are Dog Breed DNA Tests Accurate?
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So you have a mixed breed dog and want to know his or her genetic makeup? Dog breed DNA tests can help you find that out, but are they really accurate?
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